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20 September, 2012


Egypt's top Muslim official calls for peaceful reaction to insults

Egypt's highest Islamic legal official, has urged Muslims to endure the insults connected with the anti-Islam film and caricatures peacefully, Reuters reports. Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa, condemned the scandalous publication of cartoons ridiculing Prophet Mohammed by a French magazine.  But Gomaa called for restraint, stressing  that Mohammed and his followers had endured "the worst insults from the non-believers of his time.” “But his example was always to endure all personal insults and attacks without retaliation of any sort. There is no doubt that, since the Prophet is our greatest example in this life, this should also be the reaction of all Muslims." Egypt's prestigious Muslim university, Al Azhar, echoed the mufti's statement, saying any protest must be peaceful.


Pussy Riot member’s husband seeks US sanctions

The husband of one of the jailed members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot is seeking US sanctions against Russian officials involved in prosecuting the activists, AP reports. On Thursday, Pyotr Verzilov, the husband of Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, met with US lawmakers and aides who’ve worked on the Magnitsky bill, a draft legislation that would impose sanctions on Russian officials, whom the US accuses of human right violations. The members of the provocative punk band were sentenced to two years behind bars for staging an anti-Putin performance in the country’s main Orthodox cathedral in Moscow. Verzilov said he hopes the Magnitsky bill could be used to pressure Russia to release his wife her band members.


Germany postpones campaign against radical Islam, fears violence from extremists

­Germany’s Interior Ministry has postponed a poster campaign in cities throughout the country, aimed at countering radical Islam. It comes after fears the campaign would incite violence by extremists, Reuters reports. The posters, which were aimed at those who suspected a friend or family member might be drifting towards radical Islam, were due to go up on Friday. Some Muslim groups criticized the campaign, claiming it stigmatized them. The ministry says it still plans to place the advertisements online and in magazines.


1,000 year old village discovered in Philippines

A 1,000 year old village has been discovered atop Mount Kamhantik in Quezon province. Archaeologists discovered 15 limestone coffins on the jungle-covered mountain- top, indicating the use of carving tools. Carbon dating tests were carried out on a tooth found in one of the graves, suggesting the village existed between the 10th and 14th centuries. The discovery of the coffins is especially significant, as it is also evidence that Filipinos had more advanced burial rituals than previously thought.


Georgian interior minister resigns in wake of torture scandal

Georgia’s interior minister, Bachana Ahalaya, has resigned for allowing the torture of inmates to go on in a Tbilisi jail. The abuse came to light after a secret video was broadcast on the country’s main TV networks.  Following the news Georgia saw mass protests demanding Ahalaya’s resignation. Another junior minister also lost their position and more than ten officials have been arrested in connection with the scandal.


Guinea police fire tear gas at protesters in capital

Thousands of protesters have taken to the streets in Guinea’s capital, Conakry, calling for the departure of Waymark, a South African company in charge of the country’s electoral list. Police have fired tear gas at the protesters in attempts to disperse the crowds. Waymark has courted controversy after being hired by President Alpha Conde’s ruling party, with many fearing their impartibility may be affected.


Czech Republic bans liquor exports after bootleg alcohol kills 23 people

­The Czech government has implemented an immediate ban on all exports of hard liquor to the European Union, after 23 people were killed from methanol poisoning, Reuters reports. The deaths are believed to have come from bootleg alcohol. The country banned hard liquor sales in shops and pubs last Friday and plans to reopen domestic sales next week. New tax stamps and notes of origin will be implemented in order to certify drink safety.


Polish military patrol find newborn baby girl abandoned in Afghanistan

A newborn baby girl has been found abandoned by the side of the road in southern Afghanistan. She initially roused suspicion amongst the cautious soldiers, as she was found in an area which was being checked, and was thought to be a bomb. Nobody was found within a 2km radius, and her parentage remains unknown. The troops took the girl, who they named Pola, to a medical center at their base. She will be handed over to Afghan authorities.


Cuba calls for next US President to drop embargo

Cuba’s foreign minister has called for the next US President to end the 50-year embargo on the country, ahead of America’s elections in November. Speaking during an annual report on the economic impact of sanctions on Cuba, Bruno Rodriguez called them “obsolete” and said the next US President had a “historic opportunity” to reverse them. Cuba previously insisted that the US should drop its sanctions unilaterally, something Washington refuses to do.


Court denies actress’ request to take down YouTube clip for anti-Muslim film

A California court has denied the actress' request to take down the YouTube clip which was caused her to fear for the safety of her family. Actress Cindy Lee Garcia, who appeared in the controversial movie, sought the film’s removal from the internet, saying that since it was posted she has been the target of numerous death threats and her right to privacy has been violated.


Four terrorists, two policemen killed in Chechnya

Law enforcement officers have carried out a special operation, eliminating four terrorists in the Russian Republic of Chechnya.According to the Republic’s president Ramzan Kadyrov, two members of the police force were also killed during the raid.


At least 8 killed, dozens injured in reported suicide attack in Somali capital

­At least eight people have been killed and dozens wounded, as three suicide bombers reportedly targeted a restaurant near the national theatre in Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital.  The restaurant, called "The Village", is owned by a well known Somali businessman who returned to Somalia from Britain recently, Reuters reports. The place is said to have been full of local journalists at the time of the attack.


Afghan president appoints new governors in quarter of provinces

Afghan President Hamid Karzai reshuffled top leadership in one quarter of the country's 38 provinces on Thursday. Ten governors were removed from their posts or were given new jobs, AP reports. Among those fired is Gulab Mangal, who ran the volatile southern province of Helmand and was respected by both British and American officials. He was replaced by Gen. Sultan Mohammad Ebadi from Afghanistan's intelligence service. The president recently replaced several government ministers, including two in charge of security. The reshuffles are part of an effort to improve governance and clamp down on corruption.


Iraq denies Tehran used airspace to ship arms to Syria

Iraq has denied a Western intelligence report claiming that Iranian aircraft had flown weapons and military personnel over Iraqi airspace to Syria. Reuters reported on Wednesday that arms transfers were organized by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The extent of such shipments is far greater than has been publicly acknowledged, the report said. “Iraq has confirmed that it will never be involved or helping or allowing any shipment via its air space or land to Syria,” Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said on Thursday.


Palestinians to ask for UN upgrade - official

The Palestinian Authority will ask the United Nations to upgrade its status in the world body by year's end, according to a senior official. The request to become a non-member "observer state" rather than just an "observer entity", would give Palestine the same UN rank as the Vatican, Reuters reports. “The day after [Palestinians] get non-member statehood, life will not be the same,” said the veteran Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, referring to the possibility to pursue Israel through the international courts. The motion would only need majority backing in the 193-nation UN General Assembly. Israel warns that Palestinians can gain independence only through direct negotiations.


BSkyB cleared of links to phone-hacking scandal

Britain's media regulator Ofcom has said there was no evidence that pay-TV service BSkyB was linked to a phone-hacking scandal which engulfed its largest shareholder, News Corp. Ofcom criticized Rupert Murdoch's son James for failing to investigate allegations of criminality at the group's newspapers properly, Reuters reports. However, the regulator concluded BSkyB was "fit and proper" to hold a broadcasting license. It also avoided making the most serious ruling that News Corp should sell down some of its near 40 per cent holding.


Syrian military helicopter crashes near Damascus

A Syrian military helicopter crashed in a rebellious suburb of Damascus on Thursday, state television said. The incident took place southeast of Douma, as witnesses heard the sound of several explosions and some gunfire. The helicopter rammed into a passenger plane with 200 passengers onboard, Interfax said, citing authorities. The plane made an emergency landing, and no passengers or crew were hurt. Rebel groups have claimed they downed the helicopter.


US deputy secretary of state on mission to Libya after consulate attack

US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns arrived in Tripoli on Thursday. The visit came a week after a deadly attack on the US consulate in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi. Burns flew into the Libyan capital to meet new Prime Minister Mustafa Abu Shagour and Mohammed Magarief, head of the national congress, Reuters reports. He will also attend a ceremony commemorating US Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens, who died in last week’s consulate attack in Benghazi. The attackers blamed the US for a video that mocks the Prophet Mohammed.


UK MPs demand halt to Arctic oil drilling

­UK lawmakers are seeking to secure a moratorium on oil drilling in the Arctic, amid environmental and safety concerns. MPs fear the potential for a spill in the vulnerable Arctic region and continued exploration is expected to have “devastating consequences for wildlife.” The Environmental Audit Committee of Britain's House of Commons has called for oil and gas companies to stop drilling until new safety measures are put in place, alongside the establishment of an internationally recognized nature sanctuary.


Russian Northern Fleet helicopter makes crash-landing

A Ka-27 helicopter crash-landed on Thursday after taking off from the flight deck of the nuclear missile cruiser Peter the Great, the Russian Defense Ministry said. The incident happened in the eastern part of Kotelny Island, belonging to the Novosibirsk Islands archipelago, during a flight to practice landing operations, the ministry said. The crew and the landing task force were not injured and were immediately rescued by the cruiser’s team, it added. Flights of Ka-26 shipboard helicopters from the cruiser have been suspended, Interfax said.


Britain, Denmark call for NATO meeting on Afghan insider attacks

The UK and Denmark have called for a meeting of NATO countries to discuss ways to tackle insider attacks against coalition troops by Afghan forces. Such attacks, which have killed 51 international service members this year, will be addressed at a NATO defense ministers meeting on October 9-10, AP quoted British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond as saying on Thursday. He also suggested a wider conference for allied and Afghan experts to “come up with additional helpful approaches.”


Japan seeks compensation over China protest damage

Tokyo will seek payment from China for damage to its diplomatic missions during recent protests over disputed islands. Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura told reporters on Thursday that “this was an issue between the governments.” Japanese shops were attacked in Chinese cities on the anniversary of the 1931 events which caused Japan's invasion of north-east China. Beijing earlier expressed regret over protesters attacking the US ambassador's car in Beijing on Tuesday.


S. African police kill 2 more in crackdown on miners’ strike

South African police have killed two more people in a crackdown on striking miners, labor advocates said on Thursday. The victims were a ruling party municipal councilor who died of injuries from a rubber bullet and a miner who was run over by an armored car, AP reports. Police warned they would take further action against illegally-protesting strikers at the world's biggest platinum producer, Anglo American Platinum. Anglo issued an ultimatum for workers to report for duty by Thursday night before the strike is declared illegal.


Danish Prophet cartoonist defends freedom of speech

Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, who provoked Muslim protests with a drawing of the Prophet Mohammed seven years ago, has insisted the West must not “be censored by Islamic authorities in deeply undemocratic countries.” He told Austrian magazine News on Thursday he had no regrets about his work. Westergaard, 77, said his home has become a “fortress” with a police station in the backyard. Bodyguards ferry him and his wife around in the back seat of an armored car.


Iranians protest Prophet cartoons at French embassy

Some 100 people protested in front of France’s embassy in Tehran on Thursday over a publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed by a French satirical weekly. The protesters chanted “Death to France,” and blasted Israel and the United States, AFP reports. Dozens of police were deployed around the embassy compound in central Tehran. The embassy was closed as a precaution.


Lebanon charges clan spokesman with kidnapping

A military judge in Lebanon filed on Thursday charges against Maher Meqdad, the spokesman for the clan behind kidnappings of Syrian nationals and a Turkish businessman in August. Military Prosecutor Saqr Saqr also charged Meqdad with “forming an armed group to damage the prestige of the state, kidnap citizens and threaten to kill them as well as possession of unlicensed weapons and explosives,” Lebanese media say. Similar charges were pressed against Hasan Meqdad and Taher Sultan. The three men were referred to a military investigative judge with a recommendation to issue arrest warrants.


Nine killed in storms across South America

Fierce storms tore across South America on Wednesday, killing five people in Paraguay, two in Uruguay and two in Bolivia. The Roque Alonso suburb of the Paraguayan capital Asuncion was devastated by the storm, and widespread looting was reported in its aftermath, AFP said. Four police cadets died and 15 were injured when the roof of their dormitory caved in, and a 16-year-old boy died at a shopping center. At least 5,000 homes were destroyed across the country, and more than 80 people injured in storm-related incidents, the national emergency response center said. More than 10 per cent of customers in Uruguay lost power after storms.


Airbus-320 makes emergency landing in Russia’s Far East

A passenger Airbus-320 aircraft belonging to Russia’s Vladivostok-Avia airlines made an emergency landing in Far Eastern city of Khabarovsk on Thursday morning. None of the 157 passengers and six crewmembers was hurt during the landing, Interfax said. Initial investigation shows that a bird could have got in the plane’s engine. The passengers flying to the city of Magadan will be offered another aircraft.


Militants trapped in North Caucasus anti-terrorist operation

Members of armed groups were trapped by police on Thursday inside a house in Nalchik, the capital of the Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria in Russia’s North Caucasus. They were encircled in a privately owned house located on Clara Zetkin Street at around 4am when the special operation began, Interfax quoted a spokesman for the republic's Interior Ministry as saying. “They opened fire after they were ordered to surrender,” he said. Police reportedly asked the mother of a woman among the militants to help them negotiate. However, the militants are continuing resistance.


Russia delivers humanitarian aid to Syria

An aircraft of the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry delivered humanitarian aid to Syria on Thursday. An Ilyushin Il-76 aircraft carrying 38 tonnes of sugar, canned fish and meat and baby food, arrived in Syria in the morning, the ministry's press service told Interfax. The aircraft had been loaded at the Ramenskoye Airfield outside Moscow.


India strike disrupts train services

Opposition workers disrupted train services on Thursday during a daylong strike in India to protest rising diesel prices. Protesters are also opposing the government’s decision to open the country's huge retail market to foreign companies, AP said. The strike, called by the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party and supported by some government allies, is expected to shut down schools, businesses and public transportation. Workers blocked railroad tracks in several cities and towns, demanding that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reverse the fuel hike and the decision on foreign retailers.


Twenty stuck on amusement park ride for 4 hours after malfunction.

Twenty fun-seekers at an amusement park in Buena Park, California were stuck in the air for four hours when an attraction’s security system engaged. The ride, designed to twirl riders high above the ground for just three minutes, gave the visitors more than they bargained for. They were brought to safety by maintenance workers long after sunset. The ride will be indefinitely closed pending an investigation. No injuries were reported.


US seeks to prolong USAID operations in Russia - paper

The US is trying to find ways to keep funds flowing to Russian NGOs, following Moscow’s decision to stop the operations of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Kommersant newspaper reports. According to the information obtained by the paper, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has sent a letter to the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, asking him to allow for an extension of the agency’s activities untill May 2013. The Russian government confirmed that it received a letter from Clinton but did not disclose its content. Moscow told the USAID to cease its activity, accusing the agency of attempting to manipulate the election processes in the country.


US denies USAID influenced Russian elections

­The US State Department has said that operations of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) were not aimed at influencing the results of Russian elections, RIA Novosti reports. “We completely reject the notion that our support for civil society, democracy, human rights in any way interferes with elections, whether in Russia or anywhere else in the world,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said on Wednesday. “We do these programs all over the world. We are evenhanded as to access to the resources for political parties, et cetera,” Nuland told reporters. The statement comes after Moscow told the USAID to cease its activity, accusing the agency of attempting to manipulate the election processes in the country.